Touch Not The Cat

Recently, I was catching up with a friend. I have to imagine catching up with me is a miserable experience, as it mainly involves a list of weird health problems delivered in a practiced yet grumpy matter. After I finished the spiel, my friend paused, then asked, “So, are you seeing anybody?”

To say I was not expecting this question is an understatement. She may as well have asked “So, are you currently orbiting Jupiter?”

Dating is a miserable experience at the best of times, and this is not the best of times. I don’t want another person expecting me to do things when I can’t do things. I don’t want another person to worry about offending with my general crankiness. I don’t want to love any new people; I want to hold on to the few I tricked into caring about me back when I was a functioning human, but I want to do it in a text-messages and g-chats kind of way. Do not touch me; I am a porcupine.

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Or this cat.

But back to lunch with my friend. “No” didn’t seem like a thorough enough answer, but what could I say? “Yes, I met someone in the waiting room of one of my many medical appointments. We have so much in common. He is 84 years old.”

Before I could say anything, my friend took in my nonplussed reaction and clarified.

“I mean like a therapist,” she said.

This made so much more sense that I immediately started laughing at myself for ever thinking she meant something different. Because she’s met me; she knows that even before I became a prickly pear, I would rather talk about 90s boy bands than actual boy problems. All of my friends seem to get this about me, and I love them for it in my cold, distant way.

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I am this Model T.

(And yes, I have a therapist. Are you kidding me? Of course I have a therapist.)

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My parents went to Mardi Gras and wrote about it in a newspaper for senior citizens

Avid readers of Senior Perspective, Prairie Edition (and who isn’t!) will recognize a version of this story from the April issue. Avid readers of anything I’ve ever written will know I get a lot of entertainment out of my parents. My mom (the one person who falls into both those categories) has given me permission to share this here, and I’m doing so because everyone needs to know what my dad is like on an airplane. Also, because my parents went to Mardi Gras then got a story about it in a newspaper aimed at Midwestern senior citizens. Words are all my mother’s – even the ones about mardi gras beads – but I added a few pictures.

Vacation Postcard

by Tish Peterson

The back story:

For the first time (ever!) Pete and I took a week-long vacation in search of warm weather. We flew to Dallas, rented a car, and drove down to the gulf coast of Mississippi, with stops in Louisiana along the way. I had every good intention of sending postcards (even went to the post office for stamps ahead of time, but the PO only had post card stamps in rolls of 100.  Yeah, right, like that’s gonna happen). But vacation postcards usually arrive after the vacation’s over anyway, so now that we’re home, I thought I’d take a few minutes to send out this version of our postcards.

To clarify right off:  We had fun!!!

It was like we were in our own version of reality shows, starting with:

ICE ROAD TRUCKER:

It took us 3 hours to drive from home to Minneapolis, and highway 494 had more turbulence than any airplane ride I’ve ever been on.  We were in the truck and Pete did an excellent job of driving.  I’m sure if it had been me behind the wheel I’d have gone through all the underwear in my suitcase by the time we got to the hotel.

Pete hadn’t flown in over 30 years, but all went well.  It was weird for ME to be the calm one on the flight, though!  I had a crossword puzzle to keep me distracted, but all he had was the window and the wing to look at.  I gave him my iPod when I realized I had it handy, which helped a bit.  Once he adjusted the volume to a level where he could hear it, however, he tended to yell everything he wanted to say (and you know how his voice carries anyway!).  Every so often he’d boom out, “NO SNOW DOWN THERE”  or  “WE MUST BE OVER OMAHA NOW” ~ which caused a murmur among the passengers, who probably thought we were getting updates from the pilot, as they peeked outside for a glimpse of non-snow or Nebraska.

To clarify, this is my pops - exactly the kind of person you want yelling on an airplane

To clarify, this is my pops – exactly the kind of person you want yelling on an airplane

MASTERPIECE MYSTERY:

When Rachel and I were in Ireland we nicknamed our rental car “The Trusty Steed.”  On this trip, the most frequent reference to the car was “What Does The Car Look Like?” and/or “Where Did We Park?”

SWAMP PEOPLE:

We drove from Dallas to West Monroe, Louisiana, and as we entered the elevator at the Holiday Inn, a young couple got on behind us.  I could hardly believe my eyes, but the guy had a live squirrel on his shoulder.  With a heavy drawl and a shucks-ma’am delivery he explained how he’d found it as a baby when he was hunting, and now it was his pet.  If I could have gotten off the elevator I would have, but instead I just smiled politely and hoped the squirrel wouldn’t look at me, or my underwear would once again be in jeopardy.

The vacation was off to a great start.

The vacation was off to a great start.

We ate at a local restaurant, with service by a darling young girl with a huge smile, but when she asked, “Yallslldoongdeeyah?” without actually moving her lips, it took me three deer-in-the-headlights “Excuse me?”s before I realized she was asking if we all were still doing good here.  Once I had cracked the code and interpreted the question, my joyous and explosive, “yes, Yes, oh YES!”  had other people looking around to see if Harry had just met Sally.

DUCK DYNASTY:

Okay, this was the highlight of the vacation for me, and actually my whole reason for going:  getting a photo op in front of the Duck Commander warehouse, and ambling throughout the gift shop for souvenirs.  I’m easily amused.  The warehouse is actually where the duck calls are still made, and where the show is filmed.  Didn’t see any Robertsons, but enjoyed myself anyway.

PGA GOLF TOUR:

We drove down to the gulf coast, staying for 3 nights in Ocean Springs, MS.  Our first mission was to locate a golf course for Pete.  That was probably the highlight of the vacation for him, coupled with the fact that there was that 7-ft alligator near the tee box on hole #10.  I was the first to spot it and could barely believe my eyes.  Come to find out (later) that there are many alligators on the course (we spotted 7), but the real danger is the SNAKES ~ which I’d been happily unaware of when I was helping Pete locate a lost ball.  Yikes!

Here let's all look at the alligator on the golf course and NOT make jokes about lost balls okay

Here let’s all look at the alligator on the golf course and NOT make jokes about my dad’s lost ball okay

GATOR BOYS: 

Not content to simply see 7 gators on the golf course, we headed over to the Gulf Shores Gator Farm, where Pete got to actually hold a live alligator and we took an air boat ride through their swamp.  We met an alligator in the swamp that came to the boat when called by the guide.  Tidbit:  alligators like marshmallows.  Who knew?

THE HISTORY CHANNEL:

A cool/rainy/dreary day on the coast, so we took in a tour of Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis.  It was very enlightening to me.  I had no idea what a deeply committed patriot Jefferson Davis had been, active in the government in DC prior to the civil war. (My Civil War history knowledge consists mostly of what I learned from Gone With The Wind.)  All the doors in the house were literally 12 feet tall, but the bath tub was the size of a coffee cup.  (What did these people look like????)  We really learned a lot, and had a good time in the process.

THE AMAZING RACE: 

Almost every time we had to get from point A to point B, in spite of having written directions, a map, and a GPS, we inevitably spent time and again doubling-back and driving around in at least one circle.  Sometimes we could actually SEE where we wanted to be, but couldn’t actually see how to get there.  the GPS ~ which is named Gertrude ~ has a bit of a devious nature or warped sense of humor.  “When possible, make a U-Turn” or “Proceed to the nearest road.”  You can just about hear her wanting to add, “……Dummy.”

THE BIG EASY:

Although we didn’t spend the night in New Orleans, we stopped on our way through to take the bus tour, and I’m so glad we did.  It gave us the chance to see some of the sights of the city that we wouldn’t have otherwise.  (Passed close to Sandra Bullock’s house/mansion, but I’m thinking she was away for the weekend getting ready for the Oscars.)  I think we rode along a Mardi Gras parade route ~ there were chairs and stands set up along the way, and already tons of beads hanging in the trees from earlier parades.  I actually won some beads on the bus tour, by being able to correctly pronounce the name of one of the streets we passed.  I can’t remember what it was, although it sounded something like Oompa-Loompa……..   anyway, I walked away with 2 strings of green beads, and I didn’t even have to take off my shirt!!!  It was actually so cool on the tour that I had on two shirts, a fleece jacket and a windbreaker, so taking anything off wasn’t even a option!

THE MAN SHOW:

I’m not sure there really is a Man Show (there was, but I’m really glad you’ve never seen it, mom – R), but if there is I’ll bet it includes a 2-hour browse throughout Bass Pro Shop, followed by lunch at Hooters, and a guided tour of the Shreveport Water Works Museum, which was how My Man and I spent Friday, up until the time of………(wait for it)……..

MARDI GRAS PARADE!!!  Although not as expansive as New Orleans, Shreveport has a very respectable parade, with about 50 huge floats, and three marching bands, which lasted about 1 1/2 hours.  Unbelievable to me that we were actually there for a parade, but I have a significant collection of beads (and photos) to prove it.  (Again, no removal of shirts were involved; it’s a family-friendly event)  Almost as amazing as being there, is the fact that I was able to catch some of the beads when they were thrown from the floats ~ I’m so terribly non-athletic, my first instinct was to duck for cover when the beads headed my way.    Ended up with a bunch of them anyway, thanks to Pete.

Mardi Gras MADNESS

Mardi Gras MADNESS

Almost forgot to mention the favorite reality show!  THE FOOD NETWORK!!!  the BEST Mexican food, chicken gumbo, crab po-boy, shrimp creole, fried catfish, alligator bites (deep-fried mush, in my opinion), crab cakes, and some of the best sweet potatoes I’ve ever had.

STORM CHASERS:

Leaving Shreveport, the temp was in the 60s, and by the time we reached the outskirts of Dallas it was down to about 28 degrees.  I was behind the wheel ~ saying my prayers through wind, sleet, ice, slush, and rain ~ just hoping we’d be able to return “WDTCLL?”  to Avis in one piece.  God is good, and we made it, but once at the airport the weather only got worse, and we watched the announcement boards as three flights to Minneapolis were cancelled………

Ours was only 45 minutes late, and we made it back to our hotel in the cities by 10 p.m., feeling great that our part in SURVIVOR was over!

Arrived home.
Cold and snowy.
Two suitcases full of laundry.
Nothing in the fridge.
But nonetheless:
We had a wonderful time, but it’s good to be home!

And just in case you’re wondering what my dad had to say about the first vacation he’s had in years, here’s his summary:

"keeping up on face" means "we saw that you made a joke about us on Facebook," as if that was going to stop me

“keeping up on face” means “we saw that you made a joke about us on Facebook,” as if that will ever stop me from making jokes about my parents on Facebook.

I LOVE MY WEIRD FUNNY PARENTS. Next time let’s send them to Vegas.

Katy Perry Mad Libs

I listen to the radio because it’s the only thing that consistently works in my 19-year-old car. Starting the car means turning the key, then turning up the volume; unlike the windshield, the mirrors, the engine, the tires, the fuel pump or the battery, the radio does not break down (brakes, that’s another one). Flipping through the stations, resting on one for a song or two, and singing off-key by the flickering lights of my faulty dash is the only way I know how to drive. Right now, there are about a dozen stations I roll through every day; sometimes I stop for Led Zeppelin, sometimes for Doomtree, and sometimes I skip them both to belt out the stupidly catchy Ke$ha part of Pitbull’s “Timber.”

Because here’s the thing, I like all music, including top 40 pop songs. I’ve seen Aerosmith, Barbra Streisand, New Kids on the Block, Childish Gambino, and Tool in concert all within my adult life.  31 Songs by Nick Hornby and The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop are two of my all-time favorite books. So I try not to judge anyone’s taste in music; don’t listen to what you think makes you cool. Listen to whatever brings you joy.

But I have some seriously complicated feelings about Katy Perry.

I cannot decide if I like Katy Perry’s music, or if I like hating it. Occasionally I am impressed by her voice, while other times she reminds me of an Eastern Spadefoot toad. Sometimes I think she’s a genius getting the last laugh through slick satire, and other times I want to rage against everything she represents for pop music, feminism, and the future of the species.

Like I said, complicated.

“Roar,” I think, is the perfect Katy Perry song. Observe.

It has everything: the patented Belting/Heavy Breathing/Random Sound Effect style of Katy Perry vocals, occasionally within the same word (“Ro-a-a-a-a-a–uhuhr!”). It is Uncannily Current, in the sense that it sounds exactly like what else is out there at the time (Sara Bareilles’ “Brave”).  And most importantly, the lyrics that are Nonsense Clichés Strung Together In a Forced-Rhyming Fashion (“Now I’m floating like a butterfly / Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes / I went from zero, to my own hero”).

In college, I had an English professor who could not stand a single cliché in anything her students wrote. She was an older Sister with an attitude and  health problems, and she would slam her cane on the floor for emphasis as she wheezed out “Clichéd! Clichéd! Clichéd!” She was a little scary and mean, and it took me years to realize how much I actually liked her and appreciated her guidance, by which point she had passed away. This is what I think about every time I hear Katy Perry sing I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything: a nun who yelled a lot and then she died. I am not the first person to notice and be bothered by Katy Perry’s clichés – here’s a list of all 226 found on her most recent album – but I am willing to bet I’m the first person to tell that particular nun story.

And now there’s this new song, “Dark Horse,” which I initially thought I hallucinated due to my clearly unhealthy obsession with Figuring Out Katy Perry.

A) It has the singing style that haunts my dreams. B) It sounds Uncannily Current in that it sent me down an internet rabbit hole, starting with Miley Cyrus/Mike WiLL Made It collaborations and ending with too much information about what is or is not “ratchet” culture (don’t look it up).  C) The title itself is a cliché. And D) I can’t stop hate-listening to it. Katy Perry may be a complex genius hiding behind bright colors and loud noises because that’s what sells, or she might be so simple that singing “I know a place where the grass is really greener” while dressed as candy is equivalent to her baring her soul. I don’t know.

But I do know she’s a multimillionaire while I drive a ’95 Lumina. So. Dear Katy Perry, I am willing to give up all my English-major principles and follow your formula to success. I’ve done the research and I’ve got some ideas. Here’s a little something I came up with while cleaning my bathroom:

I’m taking out the trash
You’re my receptacle
I can’t see the light
You’re my spectacles
Your reflection! It’s perfection!
Think it’s a Jedi mind trick
You ask do I love you?
Boy, Is the Pope Catholic?
(random vocalization breakdown, Tuvan throat singing, maybe you go “Catholic! Lic! Lic!” for a while, etc)

Yeah. There’s more where that came from, Katy Perry. I bought a book of Mad Libs and filled in all the spaces with clichés, euphemisms and glitter. Let’s collab.

Ten Years?

I made exactly one Resolution this year: spend less money on delivery Pizza Luce. Not on delivery food in general, or pizza in general, but specifically on delivery Pizza Luce. This has nothing to do with health. This has to do with spending about $150 on Pizza Luce in December alone.

Resolutions need to be that specific to work, I think. Saying “I will lose weight” or “I will get healthy” is too vague for me. “I will not treat this restaurant as my personal kitchen three days a week,” however, seems manageable. I do admire folks who try those other, broader, goals, and I admit I get caught up in it. This is it, I think. This is the month I buckle down and finish all my crafts including the braided rug I started in 1994. But more often than not I come to my senses and amend that goal to “either claim it’s a braided rug for Barbie or give it up. Also you don’t need to DIY floor coverings. You’re an adult with a job.”

If I had one “traditional” New Years goal this year, I guess it would be to write more. Even that is cheating, as I always want to “write more.” About a week ago I thought maybe I’d make a go of it and start writing a blog entry. A few days ago I hadn’t written a word, so I thought maybe I’d search my old writings for ideas/things to plagiarize. And that’s when I realized the internet has changed since I started blogging, and the only way I could access those old things was to change with it. I clicked some things. I downloaded some files. I uploaded some things.

And that is how my old, embarrassing, mostly-about-how-much-I-want-a-nap blog posts wound up imported onto this site. Instead of writing one new entry, I imported about 500, beginning ten years ago.  I was halfway through my freshman year of college; I was immersed in a group of girlfriends I still remember fondly, even though we aren’t close anymore. I was away from my small town – albeit in a different small town – for the first time in my life. I was overly fond of commas and parentheticals. And I was pretty sure about four people were reading what I wrote, which is maybe why reading them makes me think not that I should write more, but that I shouldn’t write at all.

Anyway, it all happened. It all seemed important at the time. In the words of my 18-year-old-self, “I don’t know why I keep doing this.  I don’t have anything remotely interesting to say so I talk about myself, and no one reads it anyway because it’s uninteresting.  And yet…here we go again.”

Well, what were you doing at 18? At least my mom will get a kick out of it.

Dedicated To My Roommate

A few days ago, I met up with someone I hadn’t talked to since early August. She asked me what was new in my life, and I laughed in her face.

There’s just a lot going on right now, guys.

One of the best things to happen to me recently – and probably in all of 2013 – is acquiring a roommate. This is not usually the top of the list for the almost-thirty crowd, but my roommate is not a stranger I’ve found on Craigslist; she is my best friend hetero-lifemate, Lacy. Who I found on Craigslist.

No, that’s not true, I found her in high school.  A dozen years later, we’ve finally fulfilled our teenage dream to get an apartment together and fill it with books. Nerds in high school, nerds 4 life!

So far, living together has resulted in texts like this:

text

And notes like this:

note

And nights like this:

night

Currently, we’re following up our traditional Margarita Monday (two weeks is a tradition, right?) with some Futurama in our pjs. She doesn’t know I’m writing this. And she just texted me an emoticon of Zoidberg from the other side of our couch.

So far living with my best friend is as amazing as I imagined it would be, but with more cartoons.

I know; it won’t always be this way. Check back in six months, and maybe the “Dedicated To My Roommate” post will be nothing but “It’s YOUR Turn To Re-Alphabetize The Books” or “If You Drank All The Wine I Will Eat Your Babies.” But right now, it’s great. It’s comfortable, and comforting, and more than I could have asked for.

Life is not perfect, but my life has some very good people in it. I’m lucky to be on this adventure with one of the best.

First Time Was a Great Time. Second Time Was A Blast.

I really didn’t think it was going to happen this time.

At first, all I got from my so-called friends were excuses. “My brother is on leave from the Marines.” “I’m having minor surgery.” What, like those things are more important than seeing three separate 90s boy bands in one evening?

Because, you see, The Package – a combination tour of Boyz II Men, 98 Degrees, and most importantly New Kids on the Block – was coming to Minneapolis. And I wanted to see The Package and shutupIknowwhatthatsoundsliketheynamedthetourthatonpurpose. And really, with tickets as low as $9 a pop the Monday before, who could resist?

Almost everyone I know, it turns out. I’d almost given up hope when I opened up to my friends Joe, Mike, Ben, and Aimee after a pint or two of Fulton’s Sweet Child of Vine on Friday night.  Three regarded me with disdain, but the fourth told me about choreographing elementary school dances to “Cover Girl.” And as much as I’d like to say it was Joe because he is a seven foot tall ex-college football player, it was in fact Aimee.

At first I thought she would be too cool for something so innately dorky. Then I realized she goes out with Ben, so nothing is too dorky for her (apply ice to burned area, Ben). And after a few more IPAs, I was pretty sure I had her.

The next day, I made sure:

aimeetext

And at 9:21 a.m., she proved herself worthy.

So I bought tickets – for about $20, not $9, but still a steal – and went to work for the day.  The only thing I remember about it is that I may have admitted to 100 strangers (including two bachelorette parties) what I was doing for fun that Saturday night, and they were not impressed.

I also engaged in some trash-talking.

I also engaged in some light, unnecessary trash-talking.

Aimee proved she was game from the start, buying a sweet NKOTB t-shirt without hesitation (I, of course, was wearing this precious gem again). We grabbed the traditional concert drinks (overpriced and under-hopped), musing that even my t-shirt was old enough to drink, and got our seats.

First up: Boyz II Men!

Look, when you buy tickets for $20 ten hours before a show, this is the quality of seat you get.

Look, when you buy tickets for $20 ten hours before a show, this is the quality of seat you get.

The first thing we noticed was that the Boyz were wearing all white. The second thing was that there were only three of them.

I have watched this video three four several times in a row now, and I’m still not positive which one of these Boyz wasn’t there. I think it’s the one in the yellow shirt. Our seats were not great, and they’ve aged, okay? They might even be Men now. Their short set was great, even if the first song took about ten minutes because of all the breaks for screaming.

Then it was time for 98 Degrees, a band I can definitely say I remember existing. I did not remember a single song of theirs, though. And I certainly did not remember the man they call Jeff.

Jeff arrived, along with the Lacheys and the other one who used to have the peroxide blond hair, and this conversation happened:

Rachel: “What did they sing aga-”
Aimee: “MAYBE HE’LL TAKE HIS SHIRT OFF.”

So began Shirt Watch 2013. It began with a focus on Nick, and then we learned Jeff was a thing and didn’t really know what to think. Things said included: “They are playing the video where his shirt is off!” “He’s lowering his suspenders!” “He’s taking his shirt off! Wait, he’s wearing another shirt underneath? YOU ARE WEARING TOO MANY SHIRTS!”

So, needless to say, I still don’t know any 98 Degrees songs.

THEN it was time for the main event. Two solid hours of Jordan Knight, Donnie Wahlberg, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, and (as Ross Raihala so splendidly put it) “whatever it is Danny Wood is supposed to be.” Everything was over the top. The opening music was reminiscent of the Olympics. The costumes were changed multiple times. The word “MINNEAPOLIIIIIIS!” was, frankly, abused by Donnie Wahlberg. And the staging was legitimately spectacular. Aimee and I stopped communicating in full sentences – partly because it was impossible to hear over the screams of thousands and thousands of women – and just started announcing things we saw: “Lasers!” “Confetti!” “Fireworks!”

Because it had all of these things and more.

Those are balloons, not camera flares. Giant balloons.

Not that I didn’t find time to add some constructive criticism to the event. The place was loud, and we were very far away, but I still felt it necessary to shout:

“ST. PAUL IS ALSO BEING REPRESENTED AT THIS ARENA,” to every Wahlbergian cry of “Minneapoliiiiis!”

“I FEEL LIKE YOUR PRESENCE IS UNNECESSARY,” to Danny Wood’s breakdancing.

“WHY DID YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA,” to the request for even more deafening screams.

On the other hand, I responded to every ridiculous gyration or piece of clothing removed by simply agreeing.

“CORRECT,” I announced to Donnie as he ripped his tank top in half.

“THIS IS ACCURATE,” to Jordan Knight’s cover of Prince’s “Kiss” while doing his best shirtless “Magic Mike” dance.  “I AGREE WITH THIS.”

And all too soon, it was over. Just kidding, it was a four hour long show and I was getting tired and they had played all of their hits anyway.

From this entire magical evening, I learned three things:

1) All I want for Christmas is for someone to change my cell phone ring to the part of Step By Step where Danny Wood sings/says “We could have lots of fun;”

2) The next time (and I’m not even going to pretend there won’t be a next time), I’m springing for the seats that are within Donnie-frenching distance because that is a thing that happened to someone who was not me; and

3) The day you decide to throw all sense of adulthood and coolness out the window, announce your excitement over boy bands, change your profile picture to the one of you in the 21-year-old shirt and serious purple eyeshadow and a side pony – that, my friends, is the day your entire high school class will find you on Facebook and invite you to your 10-year-reunion.

Asthmatic Jedi For Life

In January, I got a cough. This week, I got a diagnosis: asthma.

Asthma makes me think of two things. First, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Remember that scene? Or any part of that movie? I do, because I was too young to be watching it, and my mind will forever associate “asthma” with “psychotic nannies.”

Second, and more prominently, I think of awkward, nerdy children with huge glasses, usually portrayed on TV by the likes of Martin Starr and Josh Saviano.  And then I think, “wait, that was me as a child. That’s sort of me now. Of course I have asthma.”

Sweet Yellow Cardigan

Tell me that kid doesn’t have an inhaler.

But I didn’t have asthma in junior high or high school or college. The nerds let me hang with them anyway, presumably because of the glasses. And the braces. And the love of sci fi and hatred for physical activity and the inability to talk to boys and…who are we kidding. Asthma or not, I was the queen of the nerds.

My doctor actually suggested asthma about a month ago, after my fourth visit to her and second request for codeine.  She referred me to a specialist, who was finally able to see me this week and confirm the diagnosis – kind of. “I really want to say you have asthma, but let’s do some tests first,” he said. “Because once I give you this diagnosis you will have it for life.”

Yeah, well. I also have poor vision for life. I’m left handed for life. I’m a bit freckly for life but especially in the summer. I get why the specialist was cautious, but I also get that it’ll be okay. Still, I agreed to do the test.

“Have you had any coffee, pop, or chocolate today?” he asked. “We can’t do the test if so.”

I’d had all three within the last hour.  We scheduled the test for first thing Monday morning.

So this is how I came to wake up an hour and a half early to drive across the cities in rush hour traffic on zero caffeine and zero allergy meds. This is also how I came to be in the worst mood of my life. I am not the type who can wake up with boundless energy, spend a long time in a car, not eat chocolate, and then happily interact with strangers. Only golden retrievers and my friend Mike do that. No, I’ve purposely plotted my life so I can sleep until the latest possible moment before “commuting” to work by walking half a block, stopping at one of two coffee shops on the way, and sitting at my desk and avoiding human interaction for at least an hour.

So, unshowered and wearing what I’d found at the top of the laundry pile (pink dress and oversized hoodie), the crabbiest, coughiest, but least coffee’d version of myself checked in for her methacholine challenge. Or at least she was supposed to. What I actually said was, “I’m here for a midi-chlorian test.

It was unintentional. Nerd for life.

The premise of the methacholine challenge is to test for asthma by inducing asthma, because it only works in people who already are susceptible to asthma (or something). This strikes me as a little insane. Do we test for other things like this? “We think you have a broken leg, but we can’t be sure until we smash your knee cap with a hammer to make sure your leg is susceptible to breaking.”

Anyway.

I spent an hour slowly finding it harder and harder to breathe, which counts as a “positive” test. Then I was given a huge, fast dose of meds to bring me back to “normal.” And because I’d been complaining (imagine that!), I was brought a black coffee to sip while I waited for everything to take effect. And like every time I mix coffee and medicine, I wound up shaking and talking nonsense and basically tweaking out.

And then I was declared “normal.”

“I should go back to work,” I thought as I walked out. “Or to a movie! Or maybe a quick car nap. Or a shoe store. Or maybe I’ll take a nap in my car in front of a shoe store. COMIC BOOKS! I want a sandwich. Or an Icee! I’m going to have an Icee for lunch! Where are my keys? Did I park in this lot? I need to download Return of the Mack right now. Where’s my car? How do I get home? Wow, I feel amazing! I love having asthma!”

Needless to say, I crashed pretty quickly. I almost couldn’t finish my Icee.  And to think, my Adventures With Asthma are only just beginning. Please feel free to buy me this shirt as I make this adjustment.

Then I can finally be cool, like this guy.

A ridiculous amount of birthday love.

Was it ridiculous to turn my birthday into a month-long event/campaign/fundraiser/whatever? Yes. I am, as they say, pushing thirty. Women of This Certain Age are not supposed to wear Burger King crowns as “tiaras” and demand an ungodly amount of attention and/or ice cream. I should be embarrassed.

Does this look like the face/outfit of someone who is easily embarrassed?

Does this look like the face/outfit of someone who is easily embarrassed?

Ahem.

First and foremost, I need to thank everyone who donated to my charity:water campaign and helped me exceed my goal of saving 28 lives. To date, we’ve raised over $600! By far the most successful fundraiser I’ve ever had – even better than the time I offered personalized limericks as an incentive (And what an incentive it was – I rhymed “schadenfreude” with “does it annoy ya?” Poetry.).

I also had a lot of fun and some good response with the social media experiment portion of my birthday project – the 28 for 28 Facebook page. I like sharing things I care about, and I care about my birthday! No, I mean, I care about ways to make the world better. Thanks to those of you who got involved with that, too.

I was determined to spend my actual birthday committing 28 Random And Not So Random Acts Of Kindness. I made lists, I set a budget, I made timetables. But because I was excited, I started two days early. And because the birthday weekend involved several Unscheduled Naps, I finished two days late. That’s me all over.

I got the idea to do this by searching online, so I’m presenting this list in no particular order to maybe inspire another internet stranger one day:

Birthday (Weekend) Acts Of Kindness

1. Bought my boss tulips. They immediately folded in half and looked incredibly pathetic. But luckily I revived them (aka cut the stems) before she saw them

2. Stuck a coffee gift card on the door of a very deserving friend

3. Drew something for a friend who needs a pick-me-up

4. Donated my hair to Locks of Love.  The entire ponytail you see up above is now on its way to Florida. Factoid: the first time I did this, I was 14, and it made the front page of my hometown newspaper. I’m just trying to get to that level of fame again.

5. Tipped the stylist of my new ‘do 28%

6. Helped a stranger move a desk (or helped a stranger rob another stranger – either way, helping!)

7. Bought a friend lunch

8. Bought a different friend a beer

9. Helped yet another friend (I don’t want to brag but I have more than two) set up a blog – check it out, especially if you’re a beer fan! Also, I would like to note I agreed to do this before I knew there was going to be a paragraph of nice things about me in it. That just made me more eager to help.

10. Bought a bunch of children’s books to donate to a program I care about

11. Bought a friend tea (I was going to buy coffee for the person in line behind us, but he turned out to be a very cantankerous man, and my friend is nicer)

12. Bought a thank-you gift for someone who was nice to me recently

13. Helped the same cantankerous old man from #11 exit a “confusing” building at the St. Paul Art Crawl

14. Recycled plastic bags and donated food at a grocery store

15. Left money at a Redbox rental machine, along with a note

16. Left a 110% tip at Caribou Coffee. I did the math so that I, like every pro athlete, can say I “gave 110%”

17. Donated books to a Little Free Library (I love those things!)

18. Left money at Nice Ride MN station. I don’t want to talk about the poorly-worded note I also left there.

19. Dropped about thirty online coupons in a basket at Target

20. Donated clothes to Goodwill

21. Gave my neighbor’s dog a treat

22. Recovered a friend’s lost phone

23. Volunteered for Feed My Starving Children at Summit Brewery  (Worlds colliding!)

24. Picked up Target gift cards for The Bridge For Youth

25. Wrote thank-you notes

26. Left money at a vending machine

27. Bid on silent auction items for local fundraisers at BiddingForGood.com

28. Left quarters in laundry room for my neighbors

*************************************

So there you go. Twenty-eight mostly small, mostly deliberate acts of kindness to celebrate twenty-eight mostly great years. Thank you, everyone, for making them worth celebrating.

#Winterfest Dos and Don’ts (From Me to Future Me)

I am a lucky girl. I love great beer – and I happen to live in the Twin Cities, where the craft brew culture is booming. I also love great events – and this past weekend, I got to go to one of the year’s best: Winterfest.

This was actually my second year at the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild event, and both years have been great. And, well, learning experiences. I am already hoping to go again next year, so this is basically a list for Future Rachel. Still, you may as well reap the benefits of my beer-tasting wisdom, internet strangers.

So it begins.

So it begins.

Do obsessively hit “page refresh” for ten minutes before the tickets go on sale. The event is capped at 750 people, and sells out in seconds. I’ve managed to get tickets for two years in a row using this highly scientific method, and also dark magic.

Do eat before you go. Yes, they have food at the event, and it’s included in the price. I bet it’s pretty great, too. Last year I think I ate some cheese; this year I completely missed out on all of it. Whatever you do, don’t go to a 3-hour all-you-can-drink craft beer event on an empty stomach. Rookie mistake (that you only make once).

Do gloat about this event taking place in St. Paul, the right side of the river.

Do your research. Look through the program and have a top ten list of brews you do not want to miss, and find those first. Things do run out, plus you want to try the snobbiest stuff (technical term) before your tongue goes numb. Also, if I hadn’t looked over the program, I might have totally missed the Sugar Shack Maple Stout from Third Street Brewhouse. It’s made with Saint John’s Maple Syrup from the Arboretum where I used to work. I really like it, but with a pedigree like that, how could I not?

This has nothing to do with beer, but any time I bring up my time at the Arb I like to remind people I did this once.

Look, I know this has nothing to do with beer, but this is the most badass picture of me in existence and it was taken at the Arboretum, so I’m sharing it again.

Do bring your ID, a pen, and your tallest friend. The ID is obvious. The pen is for taking notes and/or writing your phone number on strangers’ hands. And the tall friend is easy to find in a crowd, and can also find you if/when you wander off.

Do dress appropriately. For some that means warm boots and gloves. For others an outfit you can easily sleep in on your friend’s couch. For me that means both.

Do find the Excelsior Brewing Company booth and take pictures of the staff; when you find them on your camera the next morning, understand that you will be left with more questions than answers:

They just posed like this, without any direction. Naturals.

Probably this was towards the end of the night.

Don’t be embarrassed when you spot someone you met and talked to for half an hour at a past a beer event and you can’t remember her name. She doesn’t remember your name, either.

Don’t force yourself to finish anything you don’t like. Give it to your tall friend who seems to like all the things you don’t (another reason you brought him), and find something you like better.

Don’t be afraid to not love the things everyone else loves. There may be a time and a place for me to drink Barley John’s award-winning Dark Knight Returns; that time was not two hours into the event, after an uncertain number of other pours, when I knew it was a really heavy hitter. Some other night, DKR.

Don’t live-tweet the event.

livetweet

MNBeer.com knows what I’m talking about, or wants me to shut up.

Do make an active effort to find and drink water.

Don’t get upset when one of your brewer friends makes fun of you for drinking water. He’s working and therefore sober, and definitely laughing at your slightly slurry, indignant response.

Do make friends. It’s fine if you don’t pay attention to her last name. You’ll think of something.

Legit beer friends.

The truest form of friendship.

Do have a safe drive lined up. Even if you cancel on your original safe drive to catch a ride with your new friend, Stephanie Beer and her boyfriend, Sober Dan.

Don’t go to the Onion afterwards. Just don’t. You hate that place. It never ends well for you there.

....Best laid plans...

….Best laid plans…

Do expect your best friend to text back: “UGH, RACHEL, you hate that place!” because she knows you.

Don’t be surprised if you wake up the next morning and think, “I’ve felt better.” But since you remembered to eat before the event, and drank plenty of water, you’re actually in pretty good shape and will be up as soon as you have some coffee.

So there you have it. That’s how you semi-sensibly enjoy one of the best beer events in the Twin Cities.

(But seriously, don’t go to the Onion next year.)

How Lisa Kudrow proved I’m related to Madonna and Ellen (and other genealogy adventures)

I am a genealogy geek. I even did the Ancestry.com DNA test a few months ago, which essentially means I paid some money to spit into a tube so a computer could tell me “You are a white lady.”

Rachel's DNA results

But 2% of me is inscrutable.

I am obviously Irish. I’m also a Minnesotan, which probably explains that Scandinavian and Finnish-Volga Ural business.  But frankly, one of my favorite parts of my background doesn’t really get a fair shake from this chart; although I think genetically attributed to “British Isles,” my maternal grandmother was all Acadian.

If you don’t know what that means, here is a totally accurate history lesson: In the late 1600s, a bunch of French people came to Eastern Canada, called it Acadia, and proceeded to marry each other and the occasional Mi’kmaq for three hundred years. In the late 17oos, some of them were displaced to Louisiana, where “Acadians” became “Cajuns” and started experimenting with spicy foods. But MY people stayed the hell put, making more and more French-speaking Catholics and naming them all Joseph, Pierre, Marguerite or Marie.  Eventually some of the Pierres and Maries decided it was time to spread the genes apart and migrated to exotic locations like Massachusetts, where they married Irish Catholics with names like Patrick, Joseph, Brigid, and Mary. They made many children, mostly named Joseph and Mary. From there sprang my mother, who went totally off course and married a Lutheran (descended from people named Ole, Thea, and Anna Maria), and created the genetic mutt you have before you now. And one of my names is Mary.

So anyway, I basically knew this much due to a family book tracing my grandmother’s family history. But what I didn’t know is that I am not the only Acadian with an obsessive interest in genealogy. In fact, I think we all might have that in common. There are tons of websites (and even books) about this section of people and their progeny. My theory is that at some point, someone looked at all their neighbors in Prince Edward Island and said, “Why do we all have the same face?” Or perhaps they started to wonder just how far off the island they’d have to travel to find a non-cousin to marry. The Irish faced a similar dilemma, I think.

The point is, this made a lot of research pretty easy for me, since hundreds of people have already done the hard work. And as far as I can tell, I am related to Canada. And some others displaced Acadians, which brings us to:

I am related to Madonna and Ellen Degeneres and I learned about it through Phoebe from “Friends”

You’ve probably suspected for years now that I have the Fame and Fortune gene, but Valerie Cherish just proved it: Martin Aucoin is in their family trees, and he is also in mine. Although there’s room for error, it appears that Madge is my 10th cousin, and Ellen is actually my 7th through a different line.

If Ellen is reading this and would like to know about this other line, I’d be happy to come on your show and explain it. Madonna can come too, or we can just dance to Madonna songs. And scare Taylor Swift! I’m not related to Taylor Swift I just really like it when you scare her. We can also give money to people who deserve it because that is one of my favorite things and you seem to do that a lot, but it might have to be your money.

Get back to me.

Next time on Barely Related To Famous People: Cousin Biebs and His Twitter Army!